What’s the magic formula for positive parenting? Plenty of humor mixed with a few choice curse words, as these three books show.
Got kids? Then no doubt you’ve had a parental meltdown. Or two. Or more likely, two million. Whatever the number, it’s obviously higher than you want to admit. This means you should grab a copy of How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent, Dr. Carla Naumburg’s hilarious but truly helpful guide.
This woman knows her stuff: She’s a clinical social worker, a speaker and the author of two other books on the subject of peaceful parenting (Ready, Set, Breathe and Parenting in the Present Moment). She’s candid as well, admitting to her own less-than-proud moments, such as “one particularly awful evening a few years ago when I plunked my tiny tyrants down” in front of the TV and Googled “how to stop yelling at my kids.”
Weaving in her own experiences, Naumburg shows parents how to recognize triggers and avoid the resulting explosions. In highly readable, entertaining prose, she boils down her approach to “Notice, Pause, and Do Literally Anything Else,” from simply breathing or stepping away to singing or being silly. Naumburg’s voice is empathetic and real; she doles out plenty of helpful examples and suggestions, then summarizes them all in constructive lists at the end of the book. What’s more, realizing that all parents are human, she offers a chapter on what to do after you’ve lost it with your kids—how to realistically calm yourself down and reconnect. As Naumburg wisely notes, “You don’t have to be the Dalai Mama in order to be more intentional and less insane with your kids.”
I’ve got to admit that as a seasoned mother of three, I was highly dubious of the title Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler: Tackling These Crazy Awesome Years—No Time-outs Needed—especially that part about no time-outs, once a mainstay in our household. But Jamie Glowacki definitely has cred. Calling herself the “Poo Whisperer,” this author of Oh Crap! Potty Training has worked with thousands of families to rein in tiny tempers. Her book offers plenty of sage advice in often amusing prose, backed up by examples of toddler dilemmas she’s helped solve. Her recommendations may challenge your instincts or long-held beliefs, but she offers solid evidence for encouraging risky play, allowing kids to sometimes work out their own rules and issues, and making space for physicality and something she calls “Big Play,” which includes things like climbing, doorway gyms, wrestling and slacklines.
So what about those time-outs? Glowacki says, “I’m calling bullshit on it. I think time-outs are, at best, wildly ineffective. And they are, at worst, potentially damaging to your relationship with your child.” She goes on to say, “There is no way in hell that your little one is sitting there thinking about the wrong she did. And there’s really no way that child is thinking, ‘Mommy is right. How can I do better next time?’ It is hilarious that we would have that expectation.” Instead, she offers a well-reasoned toolbox of effective alternatives to address those tricky toddler meltdowns, and by gum, she has me completely convinced. Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler is exactly the book I wish I’d had when my kids were that age.
What kind of mom is Liz Astrof, who, when her son was born, quipped, “Don’t take the tags off—we may not be keeping him”? She’s a hilariously honest one who shares a series of personal essays in Don’t Wait Up: Confessions of a Stay-at-Work Mom. A TV comedy writer (“The King of Queens,” “2 Broke Girls” and more), she describes how endless hours in the writing room fill her with guilt about her family (strong-willed daughter; anxious, fact-spewing son; supportive husband), leaving her to wonder how much of her children’s early years she’s going to watch on an iPhone.
Interspersed with Astrof’s domestic tales are moving, fascinating and, of course, amusing essays that explore her troubled upbringing. Her mentally unstable mother left when Astrof was 5. Amid the abuse, Astrof and her older brother, Jeff, would hide under the bed, murmuring “safe-safe” to each other. As an adult, Astrof constantly questions her parenting skills, fearing she might turn into her mother. In a stunning essay called “Happy New Year,” Astrof finds herself coming to the rescue of her son in the midst of a meltdown, noting, “If I ever feared I was anything like my mother—which I did, every moment of every day—it was moments like this, moments of knowing what to do for my child and wanting to do them, that proved to me that I wasn’t anything like her.”
Don’t Wait Up is a funny, fascinating memoir of mothering that will definitely keep readers up way past their bedtime, laughing and sometimes crying page after page.